OpenSilver nears open source parity with long-dead Microsoft Silverlight
OpenSilver 1.0 arrived a year ago on the exact same date that Microsoft Silverlight’s official support life ended, providing an open source alternative to the developer favorite that effectively died years earlier. Now it has been updated to v1.1, approaching feature parity with the framework it was designed to replace.
Microsoft Silverlight, delivered through a web browser plug-in, enabled interactive multimedia experiences, rich business apps, and immersive mobile apps. It was especially useful for rich web applications, with features similar to Adobe Flash such as playing music, videos, animations, etc.
The web-dev framework was so popular that its deprecation caused years of anguish among developers who loved it and felt betrayed when it was killed off. It has become synonymous with Microsoft’s alleged practice of investing heavily in new technology that gains traction with users only to be discontinued, leaving them and many existing projects in a pickle.
This anxiety was so pervasive that we wrote the article last year, “A decade later, .NET developers still fear being ‘Silverlighted’ by Microsoft.” This was followed a few months later with the article “OpenSilver v1.0 Arrives as Microsoft Ends Silverlight Support”.
Now, almost exactly one year after the official death of Silverlight and the birth of OpenSilver, the latter has been updated to v1.1.
The OpenSilver website describes it as a modern, plug-in-free, open-source reimplementation of Silverlight that can run complex legacy applications as well as newly written C# and XAML applications. Resulting from a development team financed by the company Userware, its development is carried out on GitHub.
Userware’s vision is described as: “We are .NET developers who believe that Silverlight was the best platform ever to develop LOB applications. We are sad to see Silverlight die due to lack of support for supports plugins in modern browsers, so we want to reimplement it using modern, open, standards-based technologies, and we want to make it even more powerful than before, so developers have the tools they need to create amazing products that can change the world.
The v1.1 update includes new Xaml updates related to core features such as animation, bindings, triggers, virtualization, etc., as well as improvements to existing Xaml features. Userware said it also improves performance, fixes many bugs, improves simulator and VSIX functionality, etc.
Specific highlights include:
Over 100 new Silverlight featuresincluding:
- New DataGrid: Based on original Microsoft code, the new DataGrid is feature-rich and offers pixel-perfect backwards compatibility
- Silverlight Toolkit: most controls are now supported in OpenSilver, including: DataForm, Accordion, AutoCompleteBox, DataPager, LineSeries…
- Improved layout system: OpenSilver now supports Silverlight “Measure” and “Arrange” APIs to create custom panels and layouts
Support for additional third-party librariesincluding Telerik UI: While last year’s OpenSilver v1.0 release already supported most popular Silverlight libraries, including RIA, PRISM, MEF, Unity, OData, MVVM Light and Newtonsoft, the new version v1.1 adds support for more libraries, including:
- post sharp
- Black light controls
- Google Protobuf
- Responsive Extensions
- MS Expression interaction/behaviors
- Microsoft Enterprise Library
- 3x performance improvement over v1.0
Telerik UI components that would now work perfectly include (among dozens more):
Performance improvement which would derive new features such as virtualization, .NET 7 support, and several major optimizations. “On average, we improved performance up to 3x,” said Giovanni Albani, CEO of Userware. “We have observed this when porting Silverlight business applications to OpenSilver for our customers. Parts of their applications now run even faster in OpenSilver than in their original Silverlight.”
As for what’s to come, a major new feature will be in-browser VB.NET support, which is expected to arrive in OpenSilver 2.0, which is slated for release early next year.
“This will make OpenSilver the only technology that supports VB.NET and XAML for building web applications,” Albani said. “This will throw a lifeline to the large number of Visual Basic developers out there who are sad to see their favorite programming language being phased out. As we are inundated with requests for assistance migrating VB applications .NET Silverlight, we believe this feature will generate a lot of interest in the Microsoft developer community.”